Category Archives: News

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Islam, Mohammed and free speech: Could honesty be the best policy?

Yesterday, four American diplomats were murdered in Benghazi, Libya, and the consulate destroyed. The U.S. embassy in Cairo was attacked and breached by a mob, and its flag set on fire. Although the murders seem to have been pre-planned to a significant degree, both outbursts of violence are said to have been sparked by the circulation of a clip on the internet of some amateur film made by Americans which casts Mohammed and Islam in a negative light. The violent Islamic mobs were trying to correct any mistaken, negative ideas about Islam.

The messages from the U.S. government have to one degree or another “deplored” or “condemned” the denigration of anyone’s religion (i.e. the YouTube clip) while saying there’s no justification for violence over it. In the middle of a political campaign, the opposition has made hay by painting the current administration as weak. And maybe the Obama administration is weak. However, it should be recalled that similar responses took place during the previous administration to outbursts in the Muslim world like this, and there is reason to wonder whether President Romney’s words in the future would be as tough as Candidate Romney’s words now. An excuse always offered for tiptoeing around the sensibilities of rampaging mobs in the Muslim world is that it would “put our troops in danger” to offend the enraged fanatics any further.

I don’t know how well this has worked to date. In any case, U.S. troops are no longer in Iraq. In Afghanistan, even as things stand, the greatest threat to American personnel appears to be uniformed members of the official Afghan army, who have been outfitted and trained by us.

There seems to be a problem with the “messaging” from the American side. When the U.S. president and secretary-of-state take pains to say in a situation like this that Islam should not be denigrated, they are leaving the impression that they might actually do something to stop it, or that they would like to. The First Amendment, we should hope, would constrain them. However, they are reinforcing the idea, already highly-prevalent in the Muslim world, that one day no one will be permitted to speak ill of Mohammed or Islam. There are even persistent efforts at the U.N. to pass what amount to “anti-blasphemy” resolutions.

Maybe the message from the U.S. needs to be simplified in cases like this (of which there are bound to be more, as anyone with a cell-phone camera can shoot a “blasphemous” video and upload it to YouTube). Maybe the message needs to be something more like this:

“We have freedom of speech in America, which absolutely includes the right to criticize religious beliefs. That is not ever going to change. Those who criticize others’ beliefs may be criticized in return, but they may not be physically assaulted because of their opinions. Anyone attacking American citizens, anywhere in the world, will be dealt with extremely harshly.” Continue reading Islam, Mohammed and free speech: Could honesty be the best policy?

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“If someone pointed a gun at you …?” – Mayor Bloomberg’s interesting question

In a press conference this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York was defending the actions of the police officers who shot the gunman outside of the Empire State Building last week, killing him but also wounding nine innocent bystanders.

Now, I don’t condemn the police for the wounding of those people, simply because I know how densely populated is that area with tourists/commuters/people-selling-things-to-tourists and you name it. Simply put, if you point a gun straight-away in any direction there and fire it the bullet is going to find someone’s body, whether within close-range or down the block. The choice of the gunman to point his gun at the police took away their option not to fire. Using semi-automatics, they fired 16 rounds between them. Yes, they should have been able to do the job with less, but it’s difficult to seriously fault them given the abrupt and terrifying circumstance. I’m assuming at that close-range that many of the bystanders who were hit were hit by bullets or fragments of bullets which had already passed through the killer’s body. The video doesn’t show the officers firing wildly all about. Again, given the density of human flesh in that neighborhood, injuries to bystanders were inevitable. Thank God no one else was killed.

But that’s not why I’m interested in what Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at this press conference. In response to some critical question about the actions of the police officers, the famously pro-gun-control mayor is quoted as saying the following: “Let me ask you this: If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?” It’s a rhetorical question, of-course, meant to defend the actions of the police officers.

It is a funny question on more than one level, coming from him. Firstly, due to the strictness of New York City’s gun control regulations (which he would only be inclined to make stricter) it is almost impossible to conceive of a situation where that reporter would legally be able to have “a gun in [his] pocket.” Merely getting a permit to own a handgun and keep it locked up, unloaded, at home, is a matter of enormous difficulty in New York City, and the authorities are under no obligation to issue it to you at all, even if you jump through every hoop successfully. They can simply say, “Ah, we don’t like your face,” or, “We don’t feel like it today.” It is in their discretion.

And getting a permit to actually carry a loaded handgun on your person in the city is many times more difficult again, and the city actively discourages people from even attempting to do so. It’s long been a matter of contention among those who are interested that you pretty much need to be a Hollywood star, some other kind of super-celebrity or mega-wealthy character in order to be anointed with such a permit. No doubt there are exceptions, but the deck is heavily stacked against any Joe or Jane Schmo, and the Second Amendment be damned (as indeed it is in New York City).

So Mayor Bloomberg’s question —If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?—is kind of ludicrous on the face of it. The answer is: “Mr. Mayor, I wouldn’t have a gun in my pocket, thanks to you and your ilk, so I guess what I would do in that situation is die.”

And indeed, many people have died and do die in this city and others like it for the want of being able to defend themselves against murdering thugs.

Mayor Bloomberg’s question is also funny because it presumes, you’ll notice, that there is a moral right to pull out a gun and defend yourself if someone is threatening your life with one. “If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?” The question presumes not only that anyone would use their gun to defend themselves in that situation, but that it would also be the right thing to do. Continue reading “If someone pointed a gun at you …?” – Mayor Bloomberg’s interesting question

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Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012

Neil Armstrong’s death has been reported today, at the age of 82. Although—he being the first man on the moon and all—people the world over knew his name, he did not have any great public profile. The obituaries are describing him as modest and private, and surely he was both of those things.

So there cannot be for most Americans a sense of personal loss as there might be when someone famous but seemingly-very-familiar dies; Elvis Presley, say, or Andy Griffith, or Michael Jackson. Yet I think some might have a nagging feeling that something has slipped away that we might not have fully appreciated while we had it around.

In this—since most of us didn’t know Neil Armstrong as a personality—I’m referring to what Neil Armstrong seems, especially with hindsight, to have represented.

He and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon in 1969. Isn’t it so hard to conceive that forty-three years ago the United States’ space program achieved this incredible thing? These days, people absentmindedly leave at the bar small devices containing technology that makes everything NASA possessed in the 1960s look like something from the Flintstones; yet, today, in 2012, the idea of the United States putting humans back on the moon—as a stepping-stone to Mars or anything else—appears almost outrageously fanciful and out-of-reach.

Nevertheless, they did it, back then, and this guy, Neil Armstrong, seems to have taken that “one small step” in stride, not endlessly exploiting it for sponsorship deals, book contracts, speaking tours and so on, but largely just going about his life afterwards, doing serious things but avoiding the glaring limelight that his moment in the moonlight surely earned him for the rest of his life.

And now he is gone, that particular human being who did that very particular thing on July 20th, 1969. Continue reading Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012

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Chick-fil-A Day

Anecdotal reports today suggest a very big turn-out in many parts of the country for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, or whatever it’s being called.

This rush of people to go order fried chicken sandwiches is in response to the attempts by a number of big city mayors (Boston, Chicago and San Francisco) and other politicians to penalize or even ban the restaurant due to remarks by the company’s president, Dan Cathy, regarding marriage.

So much has been said and written on this subject, but for myself, I’m most interested in going back to what Mr. Cathy actually said and seeing where the justification was for the imbroglio in the first place.

It was an interview with a publication called the Baptist Press which set off the fireworks. The interview was broad, covering Mr. Cathy’s life and the history of the company. The emphasis is on Christianity, as you would expect in a publication of this kind. Mr. Cathy comes across as a thoughtful Christian, not without some humility.

“We don’t claim to be a Christian business,” Cathy told the Biblical Recorder in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, “There is no such thing as a Christian business.”

“That got my attention,” Cathy said. Roach went on to say, “Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.”

“In that spirit … [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are,” Cathy added.

“But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles. So that is what we claim to be. [We are] based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.”

Among the ways in which Mr. Cathy puts his money where his mouth is is by keeping the restaurants closed on Sundays, despite the tendency of just about everything to be open on Sunday these days.

And the company also promotes Christian causes through a foundation called WinShape. One of the projects is the provision of resources to educate and support couples in Christian marriage.

So here’s the part of the interview that has caused all the ruckus:

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

“We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.

“We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

That last sentence carries just a little irony today.

Notice, however, what is not featured in any of Mr. Cathy’s remarks. There is no mention of same-sex marriage, of gay marriage, or of homosexuality in any form. There is, in fact, no negative content at all. He is merely stating what he supports, which is what he describes as “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

Previously, on a radio show, he is also reported to have said the following:

“As it relates to society in general I think we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake out fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'” Cathy said. “And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”

A tougher statement, that one, but one which many millions of Americans would ultimately agree with. That is, that there are consequences for doing something wrong and for going against the laws of God, which all of us do sometimes, and that there are particular consequences when an entire society goes off the rails in an important way. Notice that Mr. Cathy doesn’t rant against “them” but implicitly includes himself in the society and generation which needs God’s mercy. He’s stating his beliefs, but without hatred or incitement.

For these remarks above, he has had all hell rained down upon him and his company by Rahm Emmanuel, Thomas Menino and a cast of thousands, and has been accused of bigotry. How did we get to this point in America?

The advance of the same-sex marriage movement depends in major part on a large segment of the (straight) population which is increasingly tending to say, “Oh, I don’t really care. Let people marry whoever they want to marry. Just stop bothering me.”

These are not people who have the patience either for the elaborate arguments on the one side that the institution of marriage is not something we can tamper with without fearful consequences, or on the other claiming that same-sex marriage is the great civil rights cause of our time. They would prefer to just see the whole thing go away, and increasingly they seem to think that will happen if they accede to it rather than oppose it.

The lesson of this Chick-fil-A brouhaha, and the startlingly aggressive stances by elected leaders like the aforementioned Emmanuel and Menino, is that passing same-sex marriage doesn’t end anything. After it is passed, the next step is making sure that everyone accepts it, regardless of their own moral or religious convictions. It is simply not going to be allowed anymore for someone like a Dan Cathy to assert his biblical nonsense and talk of the value of “traditional” marriage. That is to be equated with bigotry, pure and simple, and the force of regulation and law is to be used to eradicate it.

So, for those wondering what some of the unintended consequences of the legalization of same-sex marriage might be, we have been given a rock solid example by these recent events: the redefinition of mainstream Christian thinking as contemptible, intolerable hate-mongering.

Except, to be honest, I’m not at all sure it’s an unintended consequence.

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In other news … Lulu Campbell

In April of this year, Lulu Campbell dropped off her fifteen-year-old grandson at his home and was in her vehicle looking for her cell phone when two armed men approached (as reported in the Telegraph of Macon, Georgia). They demanded she open her door and hand over her money to them. She responded, “Baby, you’re going to kill me anyway, so I don’t have to open it!”

She was reaching for her .38 caliber revolver as one of the two men (allegedly one Brenton Lance Spencer) began firing on her. She had the incredible quickness and presence of mind to push back her seat in order to avoid his shot, and she felt his bullet whiz by her chest. She then fired back, hitting Spencer in his chest. (He survived and was later placed under arrest.)

The second gunman (allegedly one Dantre Horatio Shivers) was in front of her truck, and began firing at her. She ducked down and fired wildly back, persuading him to flee.

Lulu Campbell sustained no bullet wounds in this encounter, although her Toyota Tundra is riddled with them.

Campbell owns thirteen convenience stores in Georgia. She says she always carries a gun on her hip and one in her car. She is four feet and eleven inches tall. Continue reading In other news … Lulu Campbell

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Massacre in Aurora

This morning the United States awoke to news of at least 12 people dead and dozens more wounded after a gunman invaded a Colorado movie theatre which was filled with people at midnight going to see the new “Batman” film. The cruelty and carnage is impossible to come to terms with. The bereaved and those suffering horrible injuries badly need prayers along with all the practical help that is being provided.

The media mill is already churning out analyses, speculations and even political prognostications, while the bodies are still warm, and here even I’m writing about it. Advocates of gun control in America, from media talking heads to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have already jumped on the story to support their point of view on that issue. At this minute we don’t even know whether the apparent perpetrator, identified as James Holmes, legally owned his weapons or broke the law to obtain them, and we also do not know anything about his motivation.

The gun control debate will rev up for a while and it will pass. Maybe some localities will pass stricter regulations. Maybe there will be a push for more federal regulations. But whether you oppose guns or (like yours truly) vigorously support the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms, one practical fact ought to be faced: Guns will never be removed from America. Even the most draconian federal gun ban (one which is politically inconceivable) would only take guns away from people who obey the law, leaving and even promoting an illegal trade in firearms. Britain has long had strict gun control, and in 1997 passed a total handgun ban. Yet gun crime has only increased since then. The United States has many more millions of guns already in circulation than Britain could ever dream of having had. America will never be even close to being a gun-free society. Continue reading Massacre in Aurora

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Bringing down the pyramids

As reported by Raymond Ibrahim, calls have already begun amongst Muslim clerics for the destruction of Egyptian antiquities, now that Islamists appear possibly on the cusp of grabbing control from the military in that country. That includes real calls for the destruction of the great pyramids.

Of-course, it’s not going to happen overnight. Egypt has long depended on income from tourists, and such acts of brazen national self-destruction will not occur soon nor without serious opposition. Nevertheless, there is an inescapable logic at work. Symbols of paganism—and indeed of any other religion—do not enjoy tolerance by genuine Islamic regimes. History and a quick look around the world can assure you of that much. Continue reading Bringing down the pyramids

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“Endangered” heritage sites: Timbuktu and Bethlehem

UNESCO has named some new “endangered heritage” sites. The designation is intended to highlight and protect sites of great historical significance which are perceived as being threatened with destruction.

One such newly designated site is Timbuktu, in Mali, which includes many ancient shrines to saints of the Sufi strain of Islam. It has indeed been under threat by al-Qaeda-linked Islamists who reject that form of Islam, and who regard the shrines as idolatrous. In response (apparently) to the designation by UNESCO, dozens of these Islamists have arrived in Timbuktu in trucks, armed with AK-47s and pick-axes, and are systematically setting to work to destroy every single saintly mausoleum in the place. One must guess that no one from UNESCO even had time to put up a solitary poster with the “Endangered Heritage Site” designation. (I very much doubt there is anyone from UNESCO within hundreds of miles of Timbuktu right now.)

Destroying such ancient holy sites is a crime against decency and a crime against human culture, without question, but it hasn’t stopped Islamists before. Remember the Buddhist statues that the Taliban dynamited in Afghanistan in 2001. And then stop and consider what the future may hold for Egyptian antiquities, if Islamism achieves complete control in that country.

Meanwhile, UNESCO has also designated Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity as an endangered heritage site. Why, in this case? The churches who share control of the shrine—Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox—did not request the designation. Bethlehem is in the West Bank, and it was Palestinian officials who petitioned UNESCO for the “endangered” label, and asked for it to be “fast-tracked.” UNESCO quickly obliged. The granting of the “endangered” designation is being celebrated by Palestinians as a slap to the Israeli government, which asserts sovereignty over the area. Continue reading “Endangered” heritage sites: Timbuktu and Bethlehem

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“ObamaCare is a tax, not a penalty”: post-mortems

Yesterday yours truly, like approximately 1.2 billion others, reacted within just a few minutes to the Supreme Court ruling on the “Affordable Care Act.” Today I see no particular reason to either correct or to expand on what I wrote then about why the ruling is wrong, but I do see that there have been smart people out there ably gilding the lily that was here planted.

Andrew McCarthy (who has a background as a federal prosecutor) writes: ObamaCare Ruling: Pure Fraud and No Due Process. His excellent column includes the following statement of fact:

[T]oday, the Supreme Court rewrote a law – which it has no constitutional authority to do – and treated it as if it were forthrightly, legitimately enacted. Further, it shielded the political branches from accountability for raising taxes, knowing full well that, had Obama and the Democrats leveled with the public that ObamaCare entailed a huge tax hike, it would never have had the votes to pass.

But leave it to Mark Steyn to write the ultimate summation of the entire lurid and horrific mess that this has become, in his column today in the OC Register. Read it all (which won’t be difficult). It’s an out-and-out classic.

Yet, would that there were no need to write a “classic” in response to yesterday’s ruling. Would that instead the deciding opinion had itself been a classic.

Maybe it is a classic, of some sort—that sort being the wrong sort.

While I vociferously disagree with his ruling, I have not sped ahead to hating or despising John Roberts personally as a result of it. I think he made a mistake. We all make mistakes; most of our mistakes, thanks be to God, don’t bring with them the kinds of consequences that accompany a mistake by a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. If the ruling is a classic example of anything maybe it is that of a Chief Justice letting confusion and anxiety about his role as “chief” unduly affect his understanding and judgment with regard to the law. He saw that he was in a pivotal position in this case, and, as Chief Justice, that he had the power to write the deciding opinion. He distorted his usually clear-eyed view in the name of striking what he saw as some kind of grand, all-balancing compromise. Ditch the Commerce Clause through which statists seek absolute power, but let the law stand anyway through some sleight-of-hand as an ill-defined extension of the taxing power. He figured, perhaps, that it was the kind of thing that would make George Will happy; in this, at least, he was absolutely correct. Continue reading “ObamaCare is a tax, not a penalty”: post-mortems

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The Image of Forced Abortion that has Shaken China

It was an image circulated via Twitter and other on-line resources which set off the recent backlash in China against the practice of forced abortion.

Forced abortion in China

(Via the Daily Caller.)

The mother had been seven months pregnant when she was physically dragged to a hospital and injected with a toxic substance to kill the baby inside her womb. The couple already had one child, and could not come up with the necessary cash to pay a “fine” which would have permitted them to have one more, under China’s one-child policy. Continue reading The Image of Forced Abortion that has Shaken China

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Suspensions and apology follow forced abortion in China

Following up on a previous post (“Forced abortion: A tipping point in China?”): Authorities in China have taken steps designed to defuse public outrage after a widely publicized case of forced abortion. The fact of forced abortion (and forced sterilization) is nothing new in China, where a “one-child policy” has been enforced for decades, but what was different in this case was the rapid circulation via the Internet and Twitter of this particular story, accompanied by a photograph of the devastated woman (who had been beaten in advance of the “procedure”) with the bloodied corpse of her nearly full-term child beside her in the hospital. The woman and her husband already had one child, and were unable to come up with a “fine” of 40,000 yuan (roughtly $6,300) which would have “allowed” them to give birth to a second. Continue reading Suspensions and apology follow forced abortion in China

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Why do reporters even show up for Rose Garden statements?

Today, Neil Munro of the Daily Caller caused some kind of massive kerfuffle by merely asking the President of the United States a pointed question as he delivered his statement in the White House Rose Garden regarding illegal immigrants.

Presidents have steadily become more and more controlling of their public statements and media face-time, but certainly President Obama has set new precedents for being inaccessible. He frequently uses the “bully pulpit” of the White House to deliver televised statements like today’s while refusing to answer questions from the assembled press (on the off-chance any are asked). Neil Munro threw a wrench in the president’s style today, prompting him to lose his temper and so mess up the presentation. Now, a reporter who asked a question is being labeled by much of the rest of the media as a “heckler.” Continue reading Why do reporters even show up for Rose Garden statements?

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Lee Greenwood, Justin Bieber, and a Matter of Taste

The story of how the principal of PS 90 in Brooklyn, Greta Hawkins, banned the five year-olds from singing “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood at their kindergarten “graduation ceremony” has generated the kind of blowing back and forth that is typical of such incidents, and naturally everyone has a right to an opinion.

According to the NY Post, five classes spent months learning the song. The principal reportedly nixed it so as “not to offend other cultures.” Yet, the nicest thing I read in connection with this whole story—doubtless the only nice thing—is what’s conveyed in this snippet: Continue reading Lee Greenwood, Justin Bieber, and a Matter of Taste

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The Ex-Patriot Act: Not the America We Used to Know

Eduardo Saverin is a co-founder of Facebook who renounced his U.S. citizenship in advance of that company’s initial public offering on the stock exchange; in doing so he has perhaps saved himself tens of millions of dollars in U.S. tax liability on the billions he will earn. Despicable, huh? He has profited beyond most people’s dreams, thanks in substantial part to the freedom to innovate and do business that living in the the United States of America has provided him, and now, just before the big pay-off, he thinks he can just file a form, escape to Singapore, and get away without paying Uncle Sam a cent.

The political response to this has come today from Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), in the form of their proposed Ex-PATRIOT Act (Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy), which would seek to tax those such as Eduardo Saverin even after they’ve left the U.S. and their citizenship behind, and would also impose a mandatory 30 percent tax on the capital gains of anybody who renounces their U.S. citizenship. That must be pretty pleasing to those outraged at Eduardo Saverin’s rude and ungrateful behavior. That’s understandable.

And I hold Mr. Saverin in no particular esteem. I don’t even have a Facebook account (can’t afford one). I probably would not like him very much, especially if his recent actions reflect some contempt he has for the good ol’ U.S.A. However, I feel sure I cannot be the only one with serious misgivings about the implications of this “Ex-Patriot Act” for what it means to be an American these days. Continue reading The Ex-Patriot Act: Not the America We Used to Know

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Two Home Invasion Stories; Two Highly Contrasting Conclusions

Making the comparison between the following two recent stories might be a very obvious thing to do, but sometimes the obvious just cries out to be highlighted anyway.

The first story is so horrible that it is extremely difficult even to contemplate. It’s the kind of story that makes you shake your head and then, understandably, want to just turn it away. A court in Oklahoma will nevertheless have to focus on all of the details at some point. On March 13th last, a perpetrator invaded the Tulsa home of 90-year-old Bob Strait and his 85-year-old wife Nancy. Nancy was beaten and sexually assaulted. She died two days later. Bob, a veteran of World War II who fought on D-Day and earned a Bronze Star, was also injured in the attack and he passed away just about one week ago. The house was robbed and the next day a 20-year-old man was picked up by police driving around in Bob Strait’s car. He is currently being held on charges of first degree murder, first degree burglary, armed robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon. Bob and Nancy Strait had been married for 65 years. Continue reading Two Home Invasion Stories; Two Highly Contrasting Conclusions

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Freedom Tower becomes tallest building in New York City

Freedom Tower - 1 World Trade CenterBack in October, yours truly visited the Financial District in Manhattan and took some pictures of the rising structure which is now officially known as “1 World Trade Center” and reflected then on whether the originally-conceived name for the building, i.e. the Freedom Tower, might stick in general usage, despite the apparent effort to put that moniker in the past. I think there’s good evidence today that it is sticking. Take just the headline in the New York Post as a barometer: WTC’s Freedom Tower to rise higher than Empire State building today.

People prefer to use a name for something in the skyline rather than an address, and the people of New York will call it what they choose to call it. It’s not entirely clear to me why the owners (being the Port Authority of NY and NJ) chose to ditch the name “Freedom Tower,” but that’s what they did back in 2009. They did suggest that it was easier to get tenants by calling it “1 World Trade Center.” Did “Freedom Tower” seem too “in-your-face,” too defiant? Yet, “1 World Trade Center” was the name/address of one of the buildings that was destroyed on September 11th, 2001—the other one being “2 World Trade Center.” (In common usage, mind you, they were the Twin Towers.) Would you prefer to rent space or go to work in a building bearing the name of one recently destroyed by terrorists or in one bearing a new name? Go figure. Continue reading Freedom Tower becomes tallest building in New York City

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Suicide is a Crime Far Worse Than Bullying

Front pageI’ve opined in this space on this subject before, but today can’t help myself from doing so once again, in response to yet another highpoint in the swirling mass-hysteria that has seemingly engulfed so many over the concept of bullying.

An Iowa newspaper—The Sioux City Journal—generated a great deal of attention a few days ago when they devoted their front page to an editorial decrying bullying. It was prompted by the death of a 14 year-old Iowan boy. He had committed suicide, reportedly in the wake of being harassed and bullied because he had “come out” to friends as being gay. The editorial, like so many other columns and public declarations on the topic, extends great sympathy and pity to the suicide victim, while making no bones about blaming those who bullied him for his death, and blaming society-at-large for failing to spot what was happening and failing to halt the bullying.

Bullying is bad. It’s wrong to be mean to people. “Love your neighbor as yourself;” following that rule rules out bullying, and that rule should be followed. Kids who bully other kids should be called to account for it. But human nature—and especially juvenile human nature—being what it is, there will always be bullies, as there always have been. When someone kills him or herself, however, the bigger problem is surely the response to the bullying. We call someone who kills him or herself a “suicide victim,” for a reason. That person has taken his or her own life; he or she is a victim of his or her own act of suicide. It is the wrong response to any kind of bullying or indeed to any challenge that life throws in a young person’s path. It eliminates any chance of a positive change in circumstance. It wastes an entire human life. And it wounds those who knew and loved the suicide victim in ways that will never heal. It is simply a crime, and an awful one. This is why when someone threatens suicide that person can be involuntarily committed to a mental institution on that basis alone. Force is employed if necessary to prevent the crime from being committed.

Indeed, if you publicly threaten suicide, you will not be held up as a figure deserving of tearful tributes and poignantly-composed editorials. Why, then, when someone succeeds in doing it, should that person—now a corpse and so unable to hear any of the sympathetic words—be fawned over in this way? And more importantly, what is the message being sent to other kids who find themselves victimized by cruel peers? They are being told that if they do the same deed there will be front page stories, TV news features and memorial services in tribute to them, with everyone crying in pity for their terrible hardship and castigating the idiots who tortured them. I humbly suggest that this is not the way to reduce teen suicides. It is instead feeding the swamp of the potentially-lethal self-pity in which bullying-victims may be tempted to wallow.

Kids should by all means be taught—and I think by parents in preference to school officials—that there are ways of dealing with bullying. But they must also be taught that the biggest mistake is to make a bully or bullies the center of one’s existence—to give them that kind of power. Even in the age of internet postings and text messages, the old adage holds true, like so many old adages: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me. Time passes; even high school has an end. Above all else, kids must be taught never to even consider taking their own lives. It is not laudable. It is not a solution. It does not make you a hero. It is a crime, and one far worse than any juvenile insult.

It may in fact be the one truly unforgivable crime, at least in this sense: When you’re dead, it’s too late to say you’re sorry.

The Cinch Review

Extreme weather has been blown out of proportion (says IPCC)

A report from—of all sources—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is throwing cold water on the idea that climate change, whether man-made or natural, is responsible for any net increase in damaging global extreme weather events. From this report by Andrew Orlowski (and the full IPCC report is at this link):

“There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change,” writes the IPCC in its new Special Report on Extremes (SREX) published today.

“The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados,” the authors conclude, adding for good measure that “absence of an attributable climate change signal in losses also holds for flood losses”.

Is that perfectly clear? Well, if you read those lines three or four times I think you’ll perceive that what it is saying is that there’s nothing to say regarding any increase in damage from extreme weather due to “climate change.”

So what about all the weird weather everywhere, and all the weather-related disasters of the past decade or so? Continue reading Extreme weather has been blown out of proportion (says IPCC)

Myriam Monsenego

Mohammed Merah: a “Lone Wolf” and an Idea that Will Not Be Shamed

Myriam MonsenegoMohammed Merah was the twenty-three year-old jihadist who brutally murdered three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, which was a follow-up to his killing of three French soldiers earlier in March. His older brother, Abdelkader, reportedly has said that he “is proud” of Mohammed’s actions.

Those actions include not only the cold-blooded human slaughter itself, but Mohammed’s filming of the acts. He had already uploaded his videos to a jihadist website, to inspire his brothers in faith, including the footage of him killing a terrified eight year-old Jewish girl. From the New York Post:

Mohammed Merah is seen yanking Myriam Monsenego by her hair — then firing a bullet into her head while he holds her.

Officials believe Merah strapped on a camera before each murder and posted the videos on jihadi Web sites, where he believed they would inspire other al Qaeda wannabes.

Mohammed was not really innovating in what he did. Al-Qaeda and other jihadist killers have long used video recordings of their bloody slaughter of helpless victims to encourage, entertain and inspirit one another. None of these jihadist perpetrators should properly be called “lone wolves.” They share a philosophy and a network, one which continues to produce additional actors all over the world.

It’s not pleasant to contemplate this kind of evil. It’s natural to want to turn one’s head away and dismiss it as aberrant and incomprehensible. I’m as guilty of that inclination as anyone.

However, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, these acts raise questions that have to be reflected upon by anyone who desires to live oriented towards reality rather than a false rosy horizon. There is violence everywhere, and there always has been, but what is it that makes so many human beings today believe—without any apparent doubt or shame—that acts of this nature are not only desirable in the moment but objectively good? Mohammed Merah truly believed as he jumped out that window with bullets flying that he was on his way to heaven, to be with God and to be rewarded by God for the actions he had taken. God, he believed, was going to reward him for grabbing the hair of eight-year old Myriam Monsenego, yanking her head towards him and firing a bullet into her skull. His brother, still living, agrees, as do his fellows watching the videos on the jihadist websites. This is the same motivation which is behind countless acts of inexpressibly horrific violence going on around the world. (Most of it, of-course, takes place not in western nations like France, where it gets so much attention, but rather in Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, often directed against fellow Muslims, or in countries with burgeoning Muslim majorities like Nigeria.)

It is a very different quality of evil which is so confidently convinced of its own objective and eternal goodness, very different to the evil of pure blood-lust or of violent greed for money and power. It cannot be characterized as being completely unprecedented; people have been killed in the name of dark distortions of Christianity and of other religions before. However, surely it is unique in its imperviousness to the judgment of time and its apparent immunity to correction through reflective leadership and reform. Islam originated with Muhammad in the seventh century and, bluntly-speaking, the idea that killing people on the basis of who they are (Jews, Christians, infidels) can be regarded as an objective good has persisted since those earliest days. Of-course, it is not a behavior practiced by the majority of Muslims, as if that even needs to be said. But the idea itself that slaughtering even the helpless, even innocent children, on the basis of their non-submission to Islam can be good, laudable and holy: that idea has not gone away. And the consequences of that idea show no signs of abating in our modern world, in this twenty-first century. Far from it, as if that even needs to be said. President Obama is in Seoul this very day at a summit regarding nuclear proliferation. He has said that the danger of terrorists setting off a nuclear bomb in an American city is “the single most important national security threat that we face.” If or when that happens, it’s almost certainly going to be just one more consequence of this same idea. Millions may be destined for violent death in this century as a direct result of it.

Again, I feel I’m probably belaboring the obvious, and perhaps coming across as being naive, but every now and then, as these events proceed on and on, it is worth stopping to ask the basic questions, if only to resist falling into total callousness. Here is such a basic question: What is being done, within Islam, to defeat and eradicate this persistent idea? It is not enough for some imams or select Islamic spokespeople to react to the acts of a Mohammed Merah by saying, yet again, “This has nothing to do with Islam.” Yes, it did have something to do with Islam. Mohammed Merah believed he was going to heaven and would be rewarded for, among other things, grabbing eight-year old Myriam Monsenego by her hair while discharging his gun into her cranium. He believed this was a good thing, that it was something to proudly film and share to encourage others. And all around the world, more and more Mohammeds are convinced daily of the same basic idea, and are acting upon it. (If they are not killing Jews or infidels, they are killing fellow Muslims who they judge to be falling short in some way.) Why is it so apparently impossible for this idea to be fought and defeated by other Muslims? Why in fact does the horrible nature of such acts not produce a wave of shame that might extinguish the fire of would-be perpetrators?

I know that there are those who can write treatises in response to such questions, and I sometimes read them too. Maybe the answers are already out there. But sometimes you just have to stop and ask the questions again.

The Cinch Review

Armed Citizens

One of the countless such stories that occur across America on a regular basis:

Tim Patterson was cooking at The Big Yellow Mobile Kitchen as he did every day when he heard a scream coming from the parking lot of a nearby Goodwill store. He rushed toward the cries for help and didn’t hesitate to draw his Kimber 1911 .45 when he saw that a man had grabbed hold of a woman and had a knife to her throat. “Drop it or I’ll shoot you!” Patterson warned. The assailant immediately released the woman, dropped the knife, raised his arms and fled. The victim, a Goodwill employee who was carrying a bank deposit in her purse at the time of the attempted robbery, was not injured. (Coeur d’Alene Press, Coeur d’Alene, ID, 11/30/11. Via The Armed Citizen.)

Continue reading Armed Citizens